Where did it all begin? As a child, I remember making mud pies, feeling the feel of cold grass on my feet, exploring the rock bed for the smoothest rock. I also remember my Mom saying “you have sensory deprivation”. I think she was referring to the fact that I didn’t like to be touched softly. She quickly learned that I would reciprocate a hug if it was firm, instead of responding with an arched back. I really never understood my sensory aversions until later in my career.
In graduate school, sensory was not addressed. I think they left it up to the occupational therapists. One of the first real experiences I had with sensory play was when I was providing early intervention services in Missouri. A squishy ball, some sand paper and a small container of dried beans, mostly for our kids diagnosed with Autism. When my son was around age 2, our Parent Educator brought over a bucket of rice. He LOVED it! Feet and hands explored the bin leading to giggles and deep dimples. She took it with her when she left, I didn’t even think to make one for home. I guess if it required a vacuum I deemed it too messy.
Over the years, I began to incorporate more sensory play into my speech therapy sessions. When we opened the clinic in 2013, sensory tables became an important part of each therapy room. Kids would race to see what was in the bin each week and parents curious how to duplicate it for home. It is such a joy to watch a child turn uncertainty into smiles, laughter, learning and language. What I have enjoyed the most is educating parents why sensory play plays an important roll in child development, as well as helping them tackle the “messy” fear (the parents that is).
Even in a world of Pinterest, where sensory play has become increasingly talked about and quite creative, many parents that visit our clinic find it to be a completely new experience. I am excited to help expand the MESSY PLAY MOVEMENT with The Sensory Table, encouraging parents of ALL young children to allow and teach messy play and give their children a variety of experiences that do not require an iPad.
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Jennie Bjorem, M.A., CCC-SLP